For a town heavily reliant on tourism dollars, Nashville sure hates tourists. How much does Nashville hate tourists? Enough that we’ve developed a whole industry–country music–solely to encourage tourists to identify themselves by wearing silly hats and boots (thinking it will make them more authentically country), so that we can spot them from a distance and avoid them.
Why do we hate tourists so much? Because tourists get in the way of four out of the five things Nashvillians love best.
1. Eating. Tourists take up valuable table space at our favorite restaurants. We’ve tried very hard to encourage them that eating at the Nashville Hard Rock is as real as it gets, but some of them still manage to find their way to the Pancake Pantry or Swett’s so that we have to stand in line behind them.
2. Driving. Sure, getting around Nashville can be a challenge, since all the straight roads have at least three different names–1st avenue/Hermitage/Lebanon Road, for example–and all the curvy roads are named Old Hickory Boulevard. But getting to any nearby town (in order to eat there, of course) is easy enough because the roads that go to those towns have those names–Charlotte Pike, Lebanon Pike, Franklin Pike, Murphreesboro Pike, Clarksville Pike, etc. and when you need to get back to Nashville, those same roads in the other direction are all named the Nashville Pike.
But all the tourists who think the have to stay out at the Opryland Hotel end up clogging up our interstates as they drive into downtown or take a wrong turn off and end up circling the town on Briley Parkway/440 congesting traffic for the rest of us.
3. Hanging out with our dogs. Every time I take my dog to play in the fountain at the Bicentennial Mall, you should see the dirty looks I get from folks. Tourists, my dog is a lot cleaner than your filthy kids, and they’re playing in the fountain. Also, if the mall is going to have a Bass Pro Shop, it sure seems reasonable that you should be able to bring your hunting dogs in there.
4. Reminiscing about how things used to be. The most Nashville of pastimes is refusing to let go of things that are no longer there. For instance, if you were to get directions from the Union Station Hotel to the Pancake Pantry from a non-Nashvillian, she would tell you to get on Broadway, to stay on Broadway as West End splits off from it, and to keep going straight even after it becomes 21st Avenue. She then will say that once you get past Wedgewood, you’ll see the Pancake Pantry on your left.
A Nashvillian will say, “Well, come on out of the old train station and head on down past Roy Orbison’s building. You don’t want to be on the street with the bank that used to be First Union before it was Firstar, before it was whatever it is now. That’s one street over too far. But it’s fine if you’re there. Just keep coming until you get to where the old IHOP used to be and head on down towards where the old Burger King was. You’ll see where the University of Nashville was to your left. When you get to the road Ward Belmont was on, go just past that and you’ll see the Pancake Pantry to your left.”
For instance, when I was giving directions to my parents so that they could find their hotel at Thanksgiving, I said, “You’re staying at the Holiday Inn behind the old Cooker.” How Nashville is the Professor becoming? She refuses to believe the Cooker is closed.
But, 5. Being Contrary. It’s not just a Nashville pastime, it’s the hallmark of every Tennessean. If you want to understand the true heart of Tennessee, understand its contrary nature.
“You’re part of North Carolina.”
“No, we’re not.”
“You’re a state called Franklin.”
“No, we’re not.”
“Okay, fine. You’re Tennessee.”
“No, we’re not.”
“Hey, it’s already on the maps.”
“Well, fine, we’re Tennessee, but we’re annexing Kentucky the first chance we get.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Okay, but we’re going to teach our kids that, regardless of where Fort Campbell is, the 101st is really ours.”
Or how’s this for contrary? Lincoln’s vice president, Andrew Johnson, from Tennessee, pissed off the South by refusing to support secession, pissed off Frederick Douglass by being a racist, pissed off Mary Todd by not showing her the customary acts of condolence, was a strong proponent of slavery before the War, but a strong proponent of the Union during the war, and he supported emancipation, but not for people enslaved in Tennessee.
Or Tennessee’s Empress, herself, Bessie Smith, the greatest blues singer of all times–talented, wealthy, brilliant, and amazing, yet she was a foul-mouthed, heavy drinker whose affairs with both men and women usually ended violently.
Or how about the guy who runs the Carter House down in Franklin, who is a staunch Confederate sympathizer, but will not speak John Bell Hood’s name, he hates him so much?
Or, to bring it full circle, how about the fact that our economy depends on tourism, but we all hate tourists?